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Puberty for girls

9-minute read

Key facts

  • Puberty in females usually begins between the ages of 8 and 13 years.
  • Puberty involves physical and emotional changes that can be both challenging and exciting.
  • Having conversations with a parent or other trusted adult can help you while you experience these changes.

This page contains information about physical changes in females during puberty. You can visit our other pages to find more information about:

What is puberty?

Puberty is when you start to move from childhood into adulthood. During puberty, your body makes hormones that lead to physical and emotional changes. Your reproductive system and other body systems mature, and your body develops so that you are physically able to have a baby.

Changes during puberty can make you feel many emotions, including feeling:

  • overwhelmed
  • excited
  • awkward
  • empowered

This is very normal. It's a good idea to talk to a trusted adult so that they can:

  • support you
  • answer any questions you might have

When does puberty begin?

Puberty in females usually begins between the ages of 8 and 13 years. It can last for several years.

Puberty happens at different times for different people. These changes can happen quickly for some people and slowly for others.

You will start puberty at the right time for your body. This may be different from your friends or other females in your family.

If you haven't had your first period by 17 years, speak with your doctor. You can ask to see a female doctor if this will make you more comfortable.

How will my body change during puberty?

As you go through puberty, there are some changes you can expect.

Physical growth

One of the first changes you might notice during puberty is that you will get taller.

During a 'growth spurt', you may also notice other physical changes, such as:

  • the widening of your hips
  • weight gain around your thighs
  • breast development

You might feel a bit clumsy as you get used to your new shape and size.

Growing breasts

During puberty, your breasts will start to develop.

It's normal for your breasts to grow at different rates. It's also normal for one breast to be larger than the other. Your nipples will also change during puberty. They may:

  • turn pink or brown
  • grow the occasional hair

This is all normal.

Breasts can be many different shapes and sizes. It's normal for your breasts to look different to:

  • your friends' breasts
  • the breasts of people in your family
  • celebrities' breasts

As your breasts develop, you may want to wear a bra. Talking with a trusted adult may help you decide. If you want to wear a bra, they can help you shop for one that is best for you.

As your breasts develop, you may feel some discomfort or pain. You can see your doctor if you are worried about changes to your breasts, like:

  • pain
  • lumps
  • nipple discharge

Body hair

As you go through puberty, you will begin to notice hair growing in new places or thickening in some places. You will grow hair:

  • in your armpits
  • in your pubic area near your genitals (vulva)

This hair may begin thin and straight but can become thicker and sometimes curlier as you get older.

If you decide to shave or remove any of your body hair, ask an adult to teach you how to do this safely.

Skin changes

During puberty, your body makes more hormones. These can affect the glands that control the oil in your skin.

Pimples or acne are caused by overactive glands in skin. You may notice you get more pimples as you go through puberty.

Try to avoid touching the spots. This can make them worse or lead to scarring.

If you are worried about your skin, speak to your doctor about the treatments available to you.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

Sexual feelings

During puberty, you may start to have more sexual feelings. You may want to touch or rub your own genitals — this is called masturbation. This is normal, but is a private activity and must only be done in a private place.

What is menstruation?

During puberty, you will get your first period. This is also called menstruation. Your first period usually arrives around 2 years after breast development starts.

Periods happen about once a month. It is when the lining of your uterus leaves your body through your vagina. When you get your period, you will notice blood on your underwear.

Irregular periods are normal in the first 3 years.

What is a normal period?

While it may look like a lot of blood, only a few tablespoons of blood should come out with each period. The blood flow is usually heavier on day 1 or 2 of your period. Period blood can vary in colour from bright to dark red, but this is normal.

Your period may last for up to 7 days. Talk to someone if your periods are heavy or last longer than 7 days.

If your periods are more than 3 months apart, make an appointment to see your doctor. Your doctor will check that you don't have any health problems that are interfering with your cycle.

What should I expect from my period?

Having periods is healthy and normal. But it's common to experience some discomfort around the time of your period, such as:

You can see your doctor if period pain or other period problems stop you from doing things like:

  • going to school
  • hanging out with friends

Vaginal discharge

Between periods, your cervix produces other secretions that may be:

  • clear
  • creamy-coloured

This fluid travels out of your vagina. It's normal to notice it on your underwear. If you are concerned about your vaginal discharge, you can make an appointment to see your doctor.

How might puberty affect my body image?

As you get older, you may take more notice of how you look. During puberty, body changes can make you:

  • feel self-conscious
  • compare yourself to others around you

It's important to remember that there is no 'perfect body'. People come in many different shapes and sizes. Try to:

  • take pride in your appearance and your unique qualities
  • have fun finding your style as your body develops
  • not focus on unrealistic body standards in advertisements and on social media

If you are struggling with your body image, you can speak to your doctor.

How will my relationships with others change?

As you mature, you may want:

  • more space and privacy from your family
  • to spend time with boys and girls
  • a romantic relationship

You might not feel any interest in romantic relationships, which is also normal. You may prefer spending time with groups of people.

The changes that come with puberty can be overwhelming. This can impact your friendships, and your friendships may change. If you are having problems with a friend, try to understand how they are feeling.

As a parent, how can I stay connected with my teen?

If you are a parent of a teen going through puberty, they may want more space from you. This is very normal. The best thing you can do is encourage them to be independent safely.

It can be difficult talking to a child going through puberty. However, it's important to talk to your child about what to expect before they have their first period. Find time to talk about:

  • what a period is
  • what physical and emotional changes they may feel throughout their cycle
  • how best to be prepared for these changes
  • sexual health and safe sex

You can help your child feel ready for her period by discussing:

  • how to manage their period
  • how to track their cycle using a calendar or app so they know when to expect their next period

If you don't feel equipped to have this conversation with your child, there may be another trusted adult, such as a doctor or family member, that:

  • your child is comfortable talking with
  • you can talk with to feel better prepared to support your child

Resources and support

Professional support and resources are available to help you through this life stage.

Resources for teens

Call Youth Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for support if you feel affected by anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts.

Visit Headspace to access group chats, online communities, and direct support.

Call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or visit their website for free, confidential online and phone counselling.

Contact Reachout for online mental health information and advice across a range of topics, including relationships, stress and bullying.

Resources for parents

Parentline in your state or territory provides counselling and support for parents and carers.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2023

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